Karnataka Police’s attempt to intimidate media

Shahina K.K, journalist, Tehelka  has been facing harassment and intimidation from the Karnataka Police for last few weeks. A case has been registered against her at the Somawarpet Police Station (No. 199/10) and Siddhapura Police Station (No. 241/10) under Section 506 for allegedly intimidating witnesses
Tehelka had carried in a recent issue Shahina’s report based on interviews with two witnesses in the 2008 Bengaluru blast case. The report titled ‘Why is this man still in prison? ‘has raised questions over the police investigation and the arrest of People’s Democratic Party chairman Abdul Nasar Mahdani in the blast case.

Intimidation of Shahina started as soon as she reached Igoor in Karnataka’s Hassan District.Here is an excerpt from her report.

ON THE morning of 16 November, I reached Igoor in Karnataka’s Hassan district, along with two translators and met KK Yoganand, one of the witnesses in the 2008 Bengaluru blasts case and a few BJP workers, including the vice-president of the panchayat. They all disclosed that, contrary to the police chargesheet, they had not seen Abdul Nasar Madani in the area.
While on our way from Hosathotta to a secret location where we had planned to meet Rafeeq, another witness, we were stopped by the police. The Circle Inspector of Hosathotta police station, despite being told that we were from the media, warned us that we are not allowed “to do such things here”.
A police vehicle tailed us for a while en route to Madikeri to ensure that we had left. After an hour, we changed vehicles and kept our appointment with Rafeeq.
On our way back, at 9.30 pm, I received a call from the Circle Inspector. The question was simple: “Are you a terrorist?” I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He then explained that the villagers were scared and suspected that we were terrorists. He wanted to confirm my identity by talking to my editor.
The next day, three Kannada newspapers — Sakthi, Prajavani and Kannada Prabha— carried a story about a “suspicious” visit by a “group of Muslims” to the place. The newspapers said that police are not sure about the identity of the woman, though she had showed a TEHELKA identity card!

Soon 2 cases were registered against the journalist.

There has been wide spread condemnation from Journalists Associations and Civil Rights activists against this move of Karnataka Police to harass journalists.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly condemned the criminal proceedings launched against Tehelka reporter K.K. Shahina by the Karnataka police
“The IFJ is shocked that this fine example of investigative journalism has become the grounds for criminal prosecution of a reporter, on charges of pressuring and intimidating witnesses”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

As working journalists, we are gravely concerned about what appears to be a clamp down on journalists doing their duty to investigate events and issues in their attempt to uncover the truth and keep the public informed. We believe the false charges framed against Shahina KK is an attempt to silence the press and to dissuade the media from delving into such matters. The trumped up charges against Shahina KK appear to be yet another instance of social profiling based on religious identity that has become all too common in recent years. We think it is imperative to uphold the right and duty of journalists to probe issues relating to human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minority communities who are accused of criminal acts, in the public interest.
By slapping charges of criminal intimidation (which carries a seven-year jail term as punishment) against a journalist the Karnataka Police has attacked the very basis of the freedom of expression, which is vital for the functioning of democracy. .

The Network of Women in Media, India,

This, we feel, is a clear case of infringement of journalistic freedom by the Karnataka police. Howsoever serious a case might be, the media has always had the freedom in this country to meet witnesses and even the prime accused to hear their versions and place them before society. It is this freedom, among many others, that has given our democracy the vibrancy that it has today. By registering a case for criminal intimidation against a journalist, the Karnataka police has cut at the very root of democratic and media freedoms in our country
Senior Journalists from Kerala

The case is not against her as an individual but it is a warning to the entire press community, women and minorities. We strongly condemn the attitude of the police to frame false charges on a reputed journalist in a nationally reputed magazine. We are aware that if the police can go to that extent, what the status of ordinary members of the minority community could be. We also condemn the tradition of some of the members of the press to repeat the false information of the police, which has very deep communal implications. We are shocked at the growing human rights violations in the name of tackling terrorism. Above all, the problems faced by Shahina is also a grave threat to freedom of expression and the incidents also warn us about the fascistic designs of the Sangh Parivar controlled Karnataka Government
Civil Rights Groups

It seems the case against Madani is flimsy and Police is aware of that. That may be the reason for  the need for intimidating the journalist who is fearlessly exposing the flimsiness of the case.

Let us hope that all this adverse publicity generated by this incident will prevent further Police intimidation of the media.

Why is this man still in prison? Shahina’s article
Women in media Statement
Civil Rights Group statement


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